12/15/2013 0 Comments
My final stop on my journey this year to market myself and my work as a screenwriter is to find someone to help me sell my screenwriting – an agent or a manager. If that doesn’t happen to work out in a reasonable amount of time, I’m going to move on to the next step. But speaking specifically of getting an agent, it would seem that the holy grail of getting a screenplay sold doesn’t rest with them either. As I have read in numerous online articles by people of various professional persuasions, having an agent is only a feather in the writer’s cap. Having an agent will look good on a resume or query letter or pitch – that’s the big thing. Having an agent that will go to bat for the writer day-in-day-out sounds like the ultimate dream.
Living in Canada, my choices are limited in terms of grabbing an agent by the arm and pleading with them to look after me. You would think that nabbing a Canadian agent to handle a Canadian screenwriter would be easier. When discussing getting an agent in the United States with several other screenwriters who live outside Los Angeles, you get a sense of ultimate hopelessness and frustration. I share these feelings. Inevitably, you end up hearing from another screenwriter who insists that moving to Los Angeles is the only solution. At the same time, a failed screenwriter (I mean consultant) chirps in on an online message board dedicated to screenwriting and chastises anyone who cannot commit to moving to Los Angeles. If these people could see us throwing up our hands, shaking our heads and see our blood boiling beneath our veins, they still wouldn’t get it.
These “consultants”, “former insiders”, “former managers” and “script doctors” have such severe cases of tunnel vision that if a flare gun were to go off beside their heads, they still wouldn’t blink. They always say ‘you have to move to Los Angeles if you’re going to make it as a screenwriter. If you’re serious about becoming a screenwriter, you HAVE to move to L.A.’. Balderdash. These people are living in another era when the Model-T was king and Charlie Chaplin ruled Hollywood. The choices that aspiring screenwriters have these days to expose their work are tenfold more adventurous than the days of the quill and inkwell. I’ve heard of screenwriters and producers and agents successfully corresponding by Skype, e-mail, Twitter and Facebook and networking via LinkedIn and InkTip. So don’t tell us we HAVE to move to L.A. It’s bunk.
A lot of these “script doctors” and people of that ilk are also severely out of touch with modern day prospective screenwriters and the economic realities of the world today. They still think we can pull up stakes from Main Street, Anywhere and move to the land of non-reality (both at the drop of a hat and with extended planning). It doesn’t work that way anymore. We can’t just drop by the office of Selznick and casually drop our screenplay on the desk of the secretary with the blond bob and bee-stinged lips. We can’t infiltrate the ‘mail room’ anymore and work our way up, possibly sneaking our screenplay in the ‘in’ box.
A lot of us have families to feed; bills to pay; mortgages to handle; debts that need attention. Do these “script doctors” have any clue that the economy has changed? Some of us aspiring screenwriters can’t afford to take the chance to move to L.A. It could ruin us. We could lose everything that we built up over the years – our life savings for example – by chasing a dream that might not happen. It’s a roll of the dice – throwing darts at an invisible dart board. I’ve heard of people moving to L.A. with a dream and throwing money at it and losing everything, unable to make a go of it. As much as I want to be a successful screenwriter, I don’t want to be a statistic even more.
We understand that it would be physically easier to “do meetings” if we were in L.A. But sorry, the uncertainty of the whole industry and the stability of our livelihoods trump being destitute in L.A.
So I’m urging the “script doctors” and “consultants” to open their minds and take our situation into account before insisting that promising screenwriters mortgage their lives to chase a dream that even they admit is close to impossible to achieving. I know they understand our predicament – they aren’t stupid, I just think they can’t take themselves out of their Hollywood mentality and remove the $ from their eyes.
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